Dancing on the edge of disaster: That’s how the last couple of weeks have felt for Cat Janice. The alt-pop artist released a song for her son that propelled her Billboard chart debut and viral status on TikTok. But what could be seen as the climax of this artist’s life is also the end.
Janice, whose full name is Catherine Janice Ipsan, has spent years battling a rare aggressive cancer called sarcoma, a type of malignant tumor that rises in bones and connective tissue. The 31-year-old was first diagnosed in 2022, after finding a lump in her neck a few months prior.
What transpired was a roller coaster, Janice's younger brother and manager Will Ipsan said. Her parents and three siblings put their lives on pause to rally around her, having always been tight-knit since growing up in a homeschool environment.
Her oldest sister, Meredith, cut her mission trip in Cambodia short to return to their home in Northern Virginia and created a GoFundMe page to help with the mounting medical bills.
Janice had the tumor surgically removed and went through over a dozen rounds of chemotherapy, traveling hundreds of miles on a train from Washington to New York City to receive the treatments. In some ways, Ipsan said the radiation and chemo were worse than the cancer itself.
Her simultaneous pain and hope were captured in the best way she knew how. While going through treatment and mothering her young son, she worked on her first album titled “Modern Medicine.”
Throughout the album, Janice’s melancholic and enchanting voice paints a picture of both angst and resilience.
Ipsan said his sister has been a talented musician since they were very young, starting in an orchestra and mastering violin and piano. Janice began writing music as a teenager, pulling inspiration from then-indie artists like Lana Del Rey and The Naked and Famous.
She taught herself how to sing and produce, often making her own song arrangements, and transcended from Southern rock to a more pop sound over the years. Ipsan said one of her first successes was her single “Pricey” being featured in an episode of Netflix’s hit show “Selling Sunset.”
In 2023, Janice rang the bell after doctors told her she was cancer-free. She said to her brother, “I feel like I really do have a chance here. You know, I could really live through this.”
Janice and her boyfriend, now husband, began making plans to move to Florida, hoping to take advantage of this new chance at life. But a few months later, the cancer came back with a vengeance.
A scan in May revealed it had metastasized to her lungs.
“With cancer, there’s hope and then there’s just a slap in the face with this reality,” said Ipsan.
Janice began chemo again while finishing her “Modern Medicine” album, which was released at the end of the summer. She documented her journey on social media, gaining a following that supported her music and her cancer battle.
Things took a turn for the worse as the days grew cold. The cancer accelerated, doubling in size seemingly overnight, Ipsan said.
After trying a new treatment, which Ipsan said didn’t go well, Janice’s health began to rapidly deteriorate. She and her boyfriend decided to marry, having gotten engaged during her album release party in August. And just four days later she was admitted to the hospital.
Radiation left her so ill she was moved to intensive care, Ipsan said. It just about killed her.
Janice was running out of time, but she knew there was a final piece of herself she wanted to give to the world and to her son.
She independently released “Dance You Outta My Head,” a song that began as a bonding moment with her son, the pair originally singing the words “dance until you love me” over and over. Together they strung the tune.
Janice first posted a sample of the track to TikTok on Jan. 6, seen lying in a hospital bed with an oxygen tube. In the video caption, she wrote her dying wish: “I think I’m being called home. My last joy would be if you pre-saved my song ‘Dance You Outta My Head’ in my bio and streamed it because all proceeds go straight to my 7-year-old boy I’m leaving behind.”
Her fans listened. While Janice was being moved to hospice care in her childhood home, the TikTok gained millions of views and the song garnered thousands of streams.
Though it was born in tragedy, the ballad is unexpectedly catchy and upbeat. Listening to the song you would never know it was recorded by a woman whose lungs had betrayed her, uncontrollably growing a fatal disease that forced her to face the end of her short life.
“She just wanted to leave the world with positivity, joy and get them on their feet dancing,” her brother explained. “I think her leaving ‘Dance You Outta My Head’ for everybody as her final song is really just a revelation of who she is as a person.”